Match point for Theresa or is it a foul ball?

Published: 8 Jul 2011 09:300 comments

HOW much does the BBC spend annually on its own version of a final salary pension scheme for a bunch of has-been, never-was or never-likely-to-be tennis 'stars'?

It's bad enough when the current crop achieve instant millionaire status despite incompetence, ineptitude and an inability to recognise the meaning of the words 'second round'. But it's even worse when they're merely marking time until they can drag their over-sponsored hides from the loser's dressing room to the commentary box.

Still, every glance at the action certainly reflects the real world. At one end there's someone dithering, all show, one pace forward, two back, change of mind, bounce the ball again. And at the other a strangely detached figure robotically repeats the same thing over and over again.

Apart from the pitch of the squeals, any resemblance to Prime Minister's Questions is of course purely coincidental; except that either way, Europe wins and we keep losing.

Theresa Villiers would make a spectacularly average British tennis player. In May 2009, as unseeded shadow transport minister, she visited the Derby plant of train makers Bombardier, dubbed it a "high class operation of great importance to the UK economy" and demanded the Labour Government award the firm a mega-order. Two years later, and now a seeded rail minister, she knocks out Bombardier by awarding the £1.4 billion Thameslink contract to Germany's Siemens and admits there was "no choice" under legally binding EU rules; which is more than her boss Philip Hammond owned up to on Tuesday morning when he ignored the elephant in the room, never mentioned the E-word and waffled about "level playing fields" and it "not happening in France or Germany".

Too damned right it wouldn't. First to the net on mad cows, dodgy bean sprouts or dodgier human rights, they'd sooner hold a referendum on EU membership than let some trifling Brussels bull force the sacrifice of French or German jobs. It's high time Dave started serving aces, or else he'll be racing that whining Scots bloke for a seat in the commentary box.

CABINET Office minister Francis Maude was clearly outnumbered when the Today programme set up a three-way slanging match on the morning of the big strike.

But as the measured Welsh tones of Mark Serwotka ceded centre stage to Evan Davis' foaming-at-the-mouth hysterical rendering of extracts from Lord Hutton's pensions report, anyone not in the know would have found it virtually impossible to spot the difference between the neutral BBC journalist and the extreme left wing trade unionist.

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